Update: Asia On My Mind

After nearly a year’s hiatus while I

  1. Moved to another city

  2. Wrote a book

  3. Remodeled part of my new house

  4. Traveled to five different trade shows,

I finally resumed my training in Taekwondo on Tuesday. My performance during the first training session at my new school wasn’t stellar, but thankfully didn’t suck. (My knees, however, are still complaining.)

I bring this up because, as a student of an Asian (Korean) martial art, I have a little stronger-than-usual interest in what happens across the Pacific Ocean.

It’s hard to ignore Asia lately, certainly from an open source perspective. Many Linux and open source players are looking at the potential customer bases on this continent (especially the eastern nations) and practically salivating. And little wonder. Shaking off the ill effects of their 1997 economic crisis, east Asia is coming on strong, led by Japan, South Korea, and (increasingly) China.

Japan and South Korea’s economic strengths are well-known, of course, and their interest in open source software makes a lot of sense. They need to compete on the terms of North American and European software firms, and any edge they can get is welcome. China seems to be playing a little bit of catch up, and open source use there could be perceived as a boot-strapping effort to get themselves up to speed.

Whatever your personal take on Asian nation’s open source motivations, there’s no doubt Asia and open source is a hot topic right now. So, little wonder (again), that Palamida just announced their first partnership with a distributor in Asia.

Palamida’s business is helping customers understand the intellectual property issues that surround software licenses, particularly with open source licenses.

Their new partner seems a little odd at first: the Osaka Gas Information System Research Institute (OGIS-RI), which was the IT arm of Osaka Gas, one of southern Japan’s largest utilities. The IT department was so successful, the parent company spun it off to an independent systems integrator and consulting firm.

This was the explanation I got from Palamida CEO Mark Tolliver yesterday when I spoke to him on the phone. Tolliver likened it to the spin-off of Cincinnati Bell’s Information Systems department to an independent entity back in the day.

What surprised me during the conversation with Tolliver was how few of these distribution partners Palamida has. As a layman, I would have thought that the more local help the better, given the complexities of so many legal systems. In actuality, they don’t have a huge number of distribution partners, because Palamida already has a lot of experience in international law. Once you have that level of experience, then it does not matter (as far as the core legal business goes) to have folks on the ground.

Update: I got this clarification from a Palamida spokeperson on September 20: “Just to be very clear, Palamida makes it a point not to infer that their audits and/or expertise supersede legal advice. You mentioned in your piece that Palamida is very experienced in international law but that would not be the case as the company does not get into legalities. Legal teams approach Palamida for their audit expertise but it is those same legal teams that make all the determinations about license interpretations and obligations as well as intellectual property rights. So, Palamida presents its findings but does not offer counsel.”

Basically, the previous ‘graph inplied Palamida offers legal advice, and they don’t. This is my error, and I offer apologies.

Where OGIS-RI will help the most is generating business and sales contacts in Asia, something the company has its own experience–the Japanese firm has been a distribution partner for companies like Rational, Objectivity, and VisiBroker in Asia.

It will remain to be seen how well Palamida will do in this new market. But I think it bodes well for open source business in Asia that the lawyers are starting to set up shop.